On JK Rowling and “Transphobia”

I write in response to this article by Sarah Wallace published in today’s Toronto Star (Sunday July 12th https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2020/07/12/no-excuse-for-jk-rowlings-trans-phobia.html).

I understand that opinion pieces are not held to the same journalistic standards as pieces that report on the news but I would have thought there are SOME standards. Wallace makes an accusation against Rowling that is quite serious: transphobia. In other words, fear and hatred of trans people. It is simply irresponsible to allow a writer to make such a serious accusation without providing any evidence whatsoever that would support her conclusion. Since the impact of such an accusation is so serious, both for Rowling personally and for readers who might be misled into accepting an opinion not based in fact, I think the publication of this piece provides us with an example of exactly what Wallace protests: you have provided a “platform” heedless of your responsibility to your readers.

Here is some of what JK Rowling has to say about her view of trans people:

“I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners. Trans women who work in the sex industry, particularly trans women of colour, are at particular risk. Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men.So I want trans women to be safe.” (https://www.jkrowling.com/…/j-k-rowling-writes-about-her-r…/)

It is difficult to see how such concerns translate into “transphobia”. Or at least, not without an argument. Wallace also notes that Rowling is “privileged”, a fact that Rowling has acknowledged. But Rowling is also a woman – a female – and by definition, a member of an oppressed class subject to sexism and misogyny. Rowling’s description of how sexism has impacted her life is ignored when the author focuses only on Rowling’s privilege. Rowling is a survivor of “domestic abuse” and sexual assault, as she described in the essay I have referred to. Intimate partner violence and sexual assault are crimes committed primarily by men against women. Rowling also raised children as a single mother living on welfare, rising early in the morning while her children slept to do her writing. We should be celebrating the fact that she was able to perform acts of imagination that lifted her and her children out of destitution and struggle, not accusing her.

Rowling is speaking of her experiences as a woman – experiences which have and are all too often ignored when attempts are made to victimize women who speak out by subjecting them to further and public misogyny. Women die, have their lives destroyed and struggle to resurrect ourselves after experiences of male violence and these struggles will certainly persist as long as we are ignored. Efforts to further marginalize and silence us will not be successful only as long as women insist upon taking up public spaces and articulating our experiences and our views as Rowling did. We do so against the odds. The Toronto Star has now joined in the effort to shut our mouths.

It is ironic – and implicitly sexist – that the author focuses on the power of Rowling’s pen. That privilege has exposed her to smears, threats, harassment and mischaracterizations of her character, politics and the arguments she makes: “I spoke up about the importance of sex and have been paying the price ever since. I was transphobic, I was a cunt, a bitch, a TERF, I deserved cancelling, punching and death. You are Voldemort said one person, clearly feeling this was the only language I’d understand.”

I have witnessed the terms of the outrage expressed against Rowling for her reasoned position on issues of trans rights and sexism. It is not a pretty sight. Most people would wilt against the barrage of lies and misogynist slurs. Thankfully Rowling’s pen does have a certain power. But it is clear that a woman’s power is always subject to efforts to curb her tongue and shut her up by calling her names and making baseless accusations against her while never being challenged by media to support accusations with evidence or deal with the complexity of her narrative and the arguments she is making. In this case it is Wallace’s pen that is more dangerous to the public and an understanding of the issues.

In my view the only solution is to publish a piece that responds to Wallace and includes some information and an opinion based on evidence and argument rather than accusations based on misrepresentation at worst and misperception at best.

Elizabeth Pickett

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Radical Girlsss on JK Rowling


“As we face an increasingly violent and exploitative world for women and girls, we must not bow down to watered-down liberal “feminist” theories which men, all too readily, are willing to get behind. Instead we must critically examine the roots of femicide and male violence, and feel courageous enough to state in the face of institutional backlash that it is embedded in male control of female biology. If we cannot state this simple truth, then we cannot address the global pandemic of male violence.”

Here’s the whole statement at Radical Girlsss

Radical Girlsss is the Movement of Young Women of the European Network of Migrant Women


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This morning on his CBC programme “Day 6”, Brent Bambury hosted Karla Beauty Marx for a response to the recent public statements made by JK Rowling about transactivism and the attempt to silence the voices of women and and a feminist analysis of sex and gender.

CBC’s obvious bias, on this programme and many others, couldn’t be more clear. We need to challenge CBC clearly, consistently and continuously to step up and define the issues and responses to the issues in a way that doesn’t completely and almost absolutely silence feminist analysis.


To the CBC Ombudsman:

“I have just listened to a radio piece in response to JK Rowling’s statements about women’s rights and sexism in the context of the movement to entrench rights for transgendered people on Day 6 with Brent Bambury featuring Karla Beauty Marx, a drag queen who identifies as transgender non-binary. This piece exhibits profound ignorance with respect to the issues being raised by Rowling and many others relating to the silencing of women who have articulated a rational set of criticisms of some of the demands made by trans people and transactivists with respect to their human rights claims. As such it is biased, discriminatory and sexist.

There is more than one point of view on the claims made by transgendered people. Both Day 6 and CBC in general have for some time engaged in amplifying the voices and claims of transgendered people almost to the complete exclusion of the voices and analyses of women and feminists. Both Rowling and those who articulate a feminist response to the claims of transgendered people agree that trans people are entitled to live free from hatred and violence and discrimination in terms of employment, housing and other rights entitlements. Where we do not agree is important though and there needs to be some genuine and unbiased coverage of discussions around the unchangeability of biological sex and the fact that women’s oppression and exploitation is based on biological sex. Women’s ability to identify the sex-based nature of sexism is crucial to our ability to organize to eliminate systemic sexism. Further, ideas that encourage people to engage in thinking that denies both the reality and the importance of biological sex are dangerous not only to the health and well-being of women, but also to the health and well-being of trans people, who have very specific needs and require specific responses.

As Canada’s public broadcaster, you have an absolute duty to present more than one view on the issues and to work resolutely to represent all human members of classes who experience systemic discrimination and inequity. I would think that in these times when so much attention is finally being paid to systemic racism, you would not forget that women are also people who feel the effects of historical and continuous subordination and whose lives and voices are so often suppressed and forgotten.

I urge you to examine the way that Day 6 and CBC in general has responded to the issues raised by conflicts between transgender rights and women’s onoing struggle to define ourselves, our oppression and the route to women’s liberation.”

Here’s how you register a complaint to the Ombudsman: https://cbc.radio-canada.ca/en/ombudsman/contact


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Actions for Women in Prison


Strength in SISterhood’s letter and postcard writing templates:

Link to Steps Document here

Link to Template MP letter here

Link to Postcard Side 1 image (all the prisons for women across Canada pictured) here

Postcard Side 2 image here

Strength in SISterhood on Facebook here


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Press Release from Feminist Coalition Féministe (FCF)


Feminist Coalition Féministe (FCF) Statement on Mass Killing in Nova Scotia

Immediately following the mass murders in Nova Scotia our membership joined with feminists throughout Canada who quickly identified this as a situation that had tell-tale signs of misogynist male violence. As events have unfolded we scoured media coverage for evidence of what had taken place. When media failed to ask pointed questions to the RCMP regarding whether these attacks began with violence against a particular woman in an intimate relationship with the killer, our frustration grew. We began writing to media outlets calling out this failure and challenging them to recognize that just as the RCMP’s actions will be scrutinized in the wake of these events, so too will the media’s.

 We were disappointed to see only two questions asked about male violence against women at RCMP press conferences, one regarding the nature of the relationship between the suspect and the victims (domestic or neighbours), which the RCMP quickly reframed to ‘known to’ and ‘not known to’ the accused, emptying it of any possible information regarding his relationship with the woman who was the original target of his violence. The second asked directly if the shooter’s spouse or partner was involved and whether she was deceased, to which the RCMP responded it was too early to say. In fact, they had known since very early Sunday morning that she had been her partner’s first victim and that she had escaped his captivity and had emerged from the forest after hiding from him throughout the night. She provided critical information that he was driving a fourth mock RCMP vehicle and was wearing a police uniform.

 We are all shocked by the virulent and incredibly lethal violence unleashed by this one particular man, but we shouldn’t be. 87,000 intentional homicides of women occur worldwide annually, 34% of those, or 30,000 are women killed by intimate partners. That’s 82 women per day every day killed worldwide by intimate partners. Another 137 per day are killed by members of their own families. In Canada, 67 women were killed by current and former partners in 2018 and another 31 women were killed by other members of their families. The carnage is enormous. Women have been experiencing their own pandemic around the world that has not received nearly the attention COVID-19 has received.

 What is relatively unusual is for misogynist violent men to unleash their violence on others besides their intimate partners and children, though it seems to be becoming an increasing trend notable in several other mass killings in Canada in recent times. That these events took place during a pandemic which has seen an unprecedented worldwide response resulting in an extended lock-down, presents an opportunity for us to think deeply about how we can turn these horrific events into a legacy and a turning point, where we finally take seriously the very real prospect of ending this needless, destructive violence.

 As we tend to those targeted by these events and those left behind who are mourning them in these difficult times, we send our truly heartfelt condolences, as all Canadians did during the vigil held Friday night. As we do so, we are mindful of how we went through a similar process thirty-one years ago in the wake of the Montreal massacre. Many of us have attended countless annual vigils held throughout Canada on December 6th since then, even as we worked to make clear that those dreadful events were not the act of a lone madman any more than these are. Only last year, thirty years after the Montreal massacre happened, did a plaque acknowledging it as a targeted attack on feminists finally replace the one that had stood for thirty years saying only that it was a tragic event. We will never end this horrifying violence rooted in patriarchal violence against women if we refuse to face it boldly, honestly, and with a willingness to actually do something about it.

 A crucial outcome of these events must be our support to the woman who was the first target of this man’s violence and to all the other women and children in Canada and around the world who are currently coping with the violence of their partners and fathers. In order to provide that support effectively, Canadians must commit to learning about this pernicious and pervasive human rights violation that takes place in every city, every town, and yes, in every rural and remote location in Canada and around the world. It involves the people we know and love as well as strangers. There are plenty of resources available on-line and there are knowledgeable front-line violence against women advocates in shelters, rape crisis centres and women’s resource centres throughout the country who can share their expertise with you and the reality on the front-lines of this work.

 The second thing that must emerge is deep scrutiny of the response of the RCMP to this case, how police generally respond to cases of violence against women and how they communicate with us about their actions. Many things have already been widely discussed, such as the delay and ultimate failure to send out a warning on the public alert system. All questions must be asked through the lens of whether the RCMP response was shaped by the fact that the police knew early that this was a case of violence against a woman in an intimate relationship.

 Police response to men’s violence against women has long been critiqued and came under sharp scrutiny with the ‘Unfounded’ series first published in the Globe and Mail in 2017.  Those of us working hard to improve police response to these cases over decades know how hard it is to scrutinize what police do and to hold them accountable. The legacy of these tragic events could be turning the corner of secrecy surrounding police response and making public clear, non-aggregated data on policing violence against women in Canada.

 There will no doubt be many other things that come to light as we go forward. Let us resolve ourselves to making sure that the legacy of these horrific events is ensuring that it never happens again.

Signed: Feminist Coalition Féministe (FCF)

For more information contact: Leighann Burns, feministcoalitionfeministe@gmail.com, 613-518-1020 or Elizabeth Pickett at feministcoalitionfeministe@gmail.com


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Open Letter to NDP MP Niki Ashton re: Morgane Oger’s Bid for the NDP Nomination Vancouver-Centre

We are dismayed to learn that you are publicly supporting the candidacy of Morgane Oger for nomination to become the NDP candidate for Vancouver-Centre. In 2018, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh reiterated the party’s long-standing commitment to addressing the social, political and economic impact of women’s subordination, stating that

 As long as Indigenous women are overrepresented in prisons, as long as older women are trapped in poverty, as long as all women are paid less than men at work, as long as women face gender violence – and as long as women still have to fear having their rights taken away – we won’t stop pressing for true gender equality.”

You have expanded upon the issues relating to women’s inequality in a statement on women’s rights on your website.

 It is not possible to reconcile your views or Mr. Singh’s statement of commitment to women’s rights with your support of Morgane Oger who has, for years, engaged in a continuous and public attack on women’s rights, on women’s organizations, on public institutions that facilitate public discussion of women’s rights and on individual women identified as feminist journalists, public speakers and advocates.

On both Twitter and Facebook, on public accounts, Oger has engaged in a prolonged attack on Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, one of Canada’s oldest and most respected women’s shelter, providing crisis line services to all who require them, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. VRRWS serves nearly 1,200 women a year – rape and sexual assault victims, women abused in the sex trade, women who have fled violent men with their children, poor, working class and disadvantaged women trying to rebuild their lives away from abusive men, women of all races and ethnicities.

VRRWS is also the only women’s shelter in Vancouver that offers women-only services, recognizing that women victims of male violence require spaces free of men to recover from abusive experiences outside the sphere of male influence and without fear of attack by men, as well as to formulate and strategize with respect to political responses to women’s oppression and exploitation and to educate the public with respect to men’s violence against women.

In a CityNews Toronto article published on March 21, 2019, Morgane Oger claimed to have been engaged in an attempt to stop Vancouver City Council’s grant to the VRRWS since 2013  – a grant that had been awarded to VRRWS every year since 2005, earmarked for public education on violence against women.

 As a result of Oger’s initiative, Vancouver City Council decided to end its grant to VRRWS after this year – a decision that ignored its own guidelines with respect to eligibility requirements. Oger now appears to be targeting the organization’s charitable status (March 15th, 2019, several times on March 19th, 2019 – here and here), and on March 20th, 2019,  implied an intention to target BC Housing’s funding for VRRWS’  transition house.

 On Twitter on (May 31st, 2018 ), Oger implied that VRRWS turns away women engaged in the sex trade. In fact, VRRWS provides services to such women, who are also included among its volunteers, employees and collective members.

 On Twitter on (May 26th, 2018), Oger stated that VRRWS advocates for “heterosexual cisgender rights only” refusing services to victims of same-sex violence or to lesbians. These statements are incorrect. VRRWS provides services to all women who have suffered violence including same-sex violence.

 On Twitter and Facebook, Oger constantly asserts that VRRWS has no legal basis (June 11th, 2018, March 26th, 2019 ) for its decision to provide services and shelter to women only. In human rights laws, both sex and gender identity are protected categories and must be balanced against each other.

 In fact, there is a case before the BC Human Rights Tribunal right now which must, in the result, balance the sex-based rights of women with the “gender identity” rights of a trans person. It is not yet known how the BCHRT will rule but what is clear is that Oger constantly misrepresents the state of the law with respect to sex-based rights and gender identity rights, going so far as to say that there is no longer any such thing as sex-based rights in Canadian law, blatantly misleading the Canadian public on a regular basis in stating that those women’s organizations that act for and on behalf of women as a sex class are violating the law.

 As it remains to be seen how these rights will be balanced when they conflict and it’s obvious that the struggle over the legal issues will be long, it is disingenuous to state that the law is clear and that women fighting for our rights before the law are in fact breaking it. To suggest this is an attempt to invalidate and dismiss women’s struggle long before the legal issues have been clarified. How can a person who so deliberately misrepresents the law adequately and appropriately represent Canadian citizens as a candidate for public office and as a federal MP?

Morgane Oger has also engaged in a prolonged attack on Meghan Murphy, an internationally respected Canadian feminist journalist, and on her publication, Feminist Current. Murphy has herself published principled and respectful articles, both at Feminist Current and other media, on the issues confronting us with respect to women’s right to organize, as women, in the struggle for our liberation and for the safety of women and girls in what have been till now sex-segregated spaces, respecting the privacy of women and girls and the need for spaces that provide relative safety, free from men. 

Along with other women’s advocates, Murphy has appeared in the USA and UK, Scotland and Canada, at public events that encourage discussion and respectful debate on issues of “gender identity” and women’s rights. In Scotland, Murphy was invited to address Parliament by Scottish National Party MSP Joan McAlpine. McAlpine noted that Murphy is “a socialist and feminist who is admired around the world for her bravery in speaking up for women” and recommended that women who express concerns about “allowing males to self-identity as women and access single sex spaces and services … should not be subject to abuse, or knee-jerk accusations of transphobia.”

We believe that Morgane Oger has subjected Meghan Murphy and other women’s advocates to abuse and knee-jerk accusations of transphobia.

One of the public discussions on these issues took place at the Vancouver Public Library on January 10th, 2019. Morgane Oger continues to publicly attack the event, the women speakers, particularly Meghan Murphy and, indeed, the VPL itself for hosting this event. We would have thought that an NDP candidate would support free and respectful public dialogue on these important problems in human rights law and public policy – the name of your party includes the word “Democratic”. Far from exhibiting a tolerant and respectful position, Oger continues to assert that the discussion itself is  unacceptable and to misrepresent the state of the law and public policy with respect to women’s and transgender rights. 

It is important to support women’s access to public spaces for the purposes of discussing, debating and educating with respect to women’s rights. It is shocking to see a respected NDP MP such as yourself support and endorse a person who consistently attacks and harasses women, women’s advocates, women’s organizations and institutions and indeed, public institutions and democratic processes themselves, while misrepresenting the content of the discussion and the intentions of the speakers.

We wouldn’t have thought that a person such as Morgane Oger, engaged in such blatant and ongoing attempts to mislead the Canadian public and stifle public discussion and debate, would be an apt candidate for the office of MP as a member of the NDP. We are shocked by Oger’s decision to attempt to advance certain views and opinions regarding  gender identity rights by attacking individual women and women’s organizations and by attempting to pre-empt open, public and democratic debate. Your decision to support Oger’s nomination campaign is equally shocking.

 We call upon you to stand up for women’s political rights and support women’s right to safety and security in our daily lives as we organize towards our liberation . Given the NDP’s stated commitment to women in the face of our subordination and oppression, if you do not do so, who will? If we cannot support and vote for you and other NDP candidates, where shall we go?

Elizabeth Pickett

Lynda Davies

Maureen Bourke

Alison Dover

Ness Fraser

Alexia Olson

David DePoe

Vera Peters

Monika Beatty

Linda Beacham

Erin Graham

Susan Smyth

Andrea Stumpf

Danielle Cormier

Kristal Kinistino

Susan Breeze

Orla Hegarty

S.L. Bondarchuk

Colleen Glynn

Amy Hamm

Diane Matte

Cheryl Smith

Catharine Daalton

Holly Stamer

Candice Pilgrim

Heather Mason

Krista Sawchuk

Willow Aster

Kate Tagseth

Cathy Sorenson

Tannis Larsen

Chris Linneman

Tina Jones

Margaret McCarroll

Jennifer White

Niki Fortier

Monica Sharma

Jeanette Nicholson

Sarah Nicholson

Sharon Fraser

Gordon B. Hill

Sarah Albertson

Jen Bjarnson

C. Dechant

Tamarack Verrall

Cathryn Atkinson

Heather Hawkins

Rebecca Whisnant

Raine McLeod

Celia A. Nord

Renee LaFortune

Kelly Quinn

Natalie Wlock

Jacqueline Gullion

Cheryl Angle

Suzette Cullen

Bonny Lees

Laurie Strang

Diana Shaw

Carolyn Jerome

Heather Hawkins

Jeff White

Cathy Swiffen

Donna Johnson

Kris Anderson

Judith Anderson

Trish Oliver

Barbara van’tSlot

Jennifer Doris

Kelly Constabaris

Annette Russell

Alison Batts

Kathleen Lowry

Sandra Tankard

Diana Majury

Rae Carlson

Michelle Lunny

Colette Surovy

Gaynor Harding

Karen Seabrooke

Lara Yates

Drena McCormack

Nancy Shaw

Marie Long

Kat Dawson

Kimberly Everett

Dustin McGregor

Amanda Gwynne

Joann Robertson

Zoë Lafantaisie

Melanie Knight

JM Janzen

The Lesbian Collective

Canadian Feminist Network

Newfoundland & Labrador Feminists & Allies

Radical Feminists Unite

NB: Many more women wanted to sign this letter but were legitimately and justifiably concerned about retaliation in their workplaces and in public after witnessing women lose their jobs, receive workplace discipline and become targets for harassment, stalking and threats of doxxing on social media-  and worse.






Posted in Uncategorized | 25 Comments

– “Que vous le vouliez ou non, le pole dancing perpétue le sexisme” —

Que vous le vouliez ou non, le pole dancing perpétue le sexisme MEGHAN MURPHY, le 18 septembre 2016 sur FEMINIST CURRENT (Photo promotionnelle de l’entreprise Doll House Pole Fitness) Depuis lundi, le personnel de la maison canadienne d’hébergement pour femmes London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) a été inondé de commentaires hostiles sur leur page […]

via – “Que vous le vouliez ou non, le pole dancing perpétue le sexisme” —

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Solidarity with #LAWC


Ottawa, Ontario

*TO: Megan Walker, ED London Abused Women’s Centre, The Board of Directors London Abused Women’s Centre, Staff and Clients London Abused Women Centre

Women in Canada and around the world look to the London Abused Women’s Centre as a leader in the provision of services to women who have experienced male violence, whether in intimate relationships, from strangers or through the sex trade. We admire the willingness of the Centre to take public, feminist positions regarding the oppression and exploitation of women, and particularly its recent decision to withdraw its support for the London “Take Back the Night” event because of a proposed pole dancing demonstration that was to take place as part of a larger protest highlighting public violence against women perpetrated by men.

Like LAWC, we understand that pole dancing emanates from the highly objectified practice of stripping and “exotic dancing” performed for the benefit of men to the disadvantage of women generally, insofar as it focuses on a male-defined understanding of women’s worth and sexual expression. Women’s individual choices with respect to participation in physical exercise that focuses on their sexual attractiveness to men within a context of oppression and exploitation are confined by male social and economic dominance. All women are entitled to respect, compassion, care and service provision. All women. This does not mean that women’s organizations must endorse activities that represent male dominance and concomitant damage to women and girls in order to be respectful of women who engage in them.

We admire the courage of the London Abused Women’s Centre, its Board of Directors and staff for willingness to publicly articulate the principles of anti-sexist, anti-misogynist, feminist practice in the provision of services and are appalled by the abusive response of some members of the community. We believe it is important that personalized attacks on leaders and staff of LAWC be publicly identified and acknowledged as attempts to intimidate individuals and the organization and pre-empt free public discourse.

We offer our solidarity and support.


Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia, Melbourne, Australia

Collective Shout, a grassroots campaigning movement against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular culture), Australia

Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter

Women’s Place Kenora

Nordic Model Coalition in Australia

NL Feminists and Allies, St. Vincent’s, Newfoundland

Canadian Feminist Network

Persons Against Non-State Torture

Concertation des luttes contre l’exploitation sexuelle

EVE (formerly Exploited Voices now Educating), a volunteer, non-governmental, non-profit organization composed of former sex-industry women dedicated to naming prostitution violence against women and seeing its abolition through political action, advocacy, and awareness raising that focuses on ending the demand for paid sexual access to women and children’s bodies.

Strey Khmer Organization, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Radical Feminists Unite, Toronto, ON

Scottish Women Against Pornography, Edinburgh, Scotland

Edmonton Women & Allies Against the Sex Industry (EWAASI)

Reclaim the Night, Perth, Australia

Korea Women’s Liberation

Ressources Prostitution, Paris, France

Rape Crisis Scotland


Linda Beacham, Women’s Place, Kenora, ON

Sylvia Black, Atlanta, GA

Emily P, Toronto, ON

Elizabeth Sellwood, Toronto, ON

Ness Fraser, Guelph, ON

Carol Dunphy, Toronto, ON

April Carriere, Ottawa, ON

Dawn Kuehn, Kelowna, BC

Trisha Wilson-Singer, Toronto, ON

Sam Turi, Kitchener, ON

Mary Poelstra, Fredericton, NB

Cathryn Atkinson, Squamish, B.C.

Sharon Fraser, Halifax, NS

Marie Hume, Mannum, South Australia

Candice Pilgrim, Belleville, ON

Simone Watson, prostitution survivor and director of Nordic Model Coalition in Australia

Susan Barley, Australia

Kylee Nixon, Edmonton, AB

Fawn Sewell, Edmonton, AB

Paula Schmidt, Vernon, BC

David DePoe, Toronto

Lynda Richardson, Women’s Place, Kenora, ON

Celia Nord, Chase, BC

Elizabeth Pickett, Ottawa, ON

Meghan Murphy, Vancouver, BC

Orla Hegarty, NL Feminists Allies, St. Vincent’s, Newfoundland

Jennifer White, London ON

Terre Spencer, Atlanta, GA

Meagan Tyler, Melbourne Australia

Inge Kleine, Kofra (Communication Centre for Women), Munich, Germany

Colleen Glynn, Richmond, BC

Tamara Gorin, Port Coquitlam, BC

Jess Martin, Vancouver, BC

S.C. Gillett, Toronto, ON

Natasha Chart, Rochester, NY

Wendy Lewis, London, ON

Leah Harwood, Toronto, ON

Jacqueline Gullion, Ghent, Belgium

Johanna te Boekhorst, Chilliwack, BC

Krista Sawchuk, London, ON

S.L. Bondarchuk, Edmonton, AB (Edmonton Small Press Association)

Rachel Goodine, Victoria, BC

Arianwen Harris, Australia

Jennifer Chavez, Maryland, US

Antonia Bookbinder, Maryland, US

Eliana Bookbinder, Indiana, US

Bronwyn Winter, Associate Professor, Acting Director, European Studies Program, The University of Sydney. Sydney, NSW, Australia

Megan Larin, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.

Jade Tinkler, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Ally Johnston, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

Susan Barley, Lithgow, NSW, Australia.

Dr Merike Johnson, Hervey Bay, QLD, Australia.

Caitlin Roper, Perth, WA, Australia.

Melinda Tankard Reist, Collective Shout. Canberra, ACT, Australia

Paige Gleeson, Hobart, TAS, Australia

Lindy Cameron, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Spider Redgold, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Raina Robertson, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Jodie Finnigan, Melbourne. VIC, Australia

Yolanda Krockenberger, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Jacqueline Gwynne – Pink Cross – Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Rosemary Davey, QLD, Australia

Elizabeth Sheehy, Professor of Law , University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, Ottawa, ON

Martha Jackman, Professor of Law, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, Ottawa, ON

Lynda Davies, former Executive Director, Assaulted Women’s Helpline, Ottawa, ON

Catherine Weiss, Melbourne, Australia

Rebecca Thornhill, Ottawa, ON

Shana Bergen, USA

Angie Conroy, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Julie Bindel, London UK

Dr Kate Cook, Manchester UK

Bernie O’Roarke, London, UK

Samantha Jinks, UK

Yolande Clark, Fredericton, NB

Dr. Erin Graham, Vancouver, BC

Diane Martin CBE, United Kingdom

Nayoung Kim, Seoul, South Korea

Sue Breeze, Barriere, BC

Julie Chalder-Mills, Cambridge, UK

Diane Martin CBE, United Kingdom

Sineat Yon, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Sue Breeze, Barriere, BC

Julia Long, London, UK

Caroline Pugh-Roberts, London, ON

Margaret McCarroll, London, ON

Marina O’Brien, Bristol, UK

Nicola Sharp-Jeffs London, UK

Kristyan Robinson, London, UK

Lee Lakeman, Vancouver, BC

Lucy Coghill, Hertfordshire, UK

Gloria Savage, Niagara Falls, ON

Fay Blaney, North Vancouver, BC

Marv Wheale, Vancouver, BC

Manon Marie Jo Michaud, Montreal, QC

Lucy Wainwright, Derbyshire, UK

Michael Laxer, Toronto, ON

Jennifer Drew, London, UK

Shauna Devlin, Ireland

Manu Schon, Wiesbaden, Germany

Mary Lou Jones, M.Ed, London, ON

Eliza Karat, Warsaw, Poland

Rebecca Harrison, North Yorkshire, UK

Chris Wilson, Vancouver, BC

Ina Major, NS

Raquel Rosario Sanchez, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Sonia Zawitkowski, Georgetown, ON

Reaksmey Arun, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Hilary McCollum, Donegal, Ireland

Yeliz Osman, Mexico City, Mexico

Lori Hirt, Rochester, N.Y.

Pam Rubin, Halifax, NS

Stephie Smith, Vermont, USA

Kelly Wark, Toronto, ON

Danielle Loger, Melbourne, Australia

Tera Cornel, Edmonton, AB

Raymond Cornel, Edmonton, AB

Sarah Miller, Reclaim the Night, Perth, Australia

Fraser Windsor, Reclaim the Night, Perth, Australia

Laura Clappinson, Reclaim the Night, Perth, Australia

Liz Waterhouse, Reclaim the Night, Perth, Australia

Elizabeth Carola, UK

Liz Smith, Melbourne, Australia

Elizabeth Gordon, London, UK

Emma Cox, Essex, UK

Darlene Corry, Donegal, Ireland

Kathleen Barry, California, USA

Nayoung Kim, Seoul, South Korea

Heather Gunn, West Vancouver, BC

Kayley Self, Los Angeles, CA

Michele Landsberg, Toronto, ON

Paige Schwimer, Los Angeles, CA

Sara Davidson, Hamilton, ON

Brian Cross, Vancouver. BC

Rachel Feury, Ireland

Rose Meltzer, USA

Meaghan McGraw, Vancouver, BC

Dr Maja Bowen, UK

Charlotte Peterson, AZ, USA

Martin Dufresne, Montreal, PQ

Lise Bouvet, Paris, France

Eileen Maitland, Glasgow, Scotland

Dr Susan Hawthorne, Melbourne Australia

Dr Renate Klein, Melbourne, Australia

Didier Epsztajn, France

Contact: Elizabeth Pickett, Ottawa, ON elizabethpickett1@gmail.com

*Posted at Feminist Current

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Conflict Violence in Congo and Violence Against Women

Earlier I posted a link in my Facebook group to an article about violence against women in the conflict in Congo. Someone objected, quite understandably, to the graphic violence depicted in the accompanying photo. I don’t know how we can resolve the problem of subjecting ourselves and others to triggering and trauma via graphically violent photos and my thinking on this is quite conflicted. Others have objected to the photo elsewhere. For the moment I’m going to leave aside the problem of exposing women’s bodies, and in this case, black women’s bodies, to the sensationalist gaze of onlookers (but feel free to discuss it if you wish) in favour of providing you with a brief history in links related to the horrible situation of women in Congo. But be warned, it’s very difficult to know.

My first exposure to the problem of sexual and physical violence against women in Congo was via this documentary – “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo”. It comes to us via a white USian woman who also suffered traumatic sexual violence herself. I think there is no more difficult piece of film on the planet, though there might be. It affected my ability to sleep for a long time and made me weep more often than I care to remember. Still, I might watch it again. Because I need to know. And I “can” know. It is not the same for everyone. And fyi, there is saving grace in the interviews with women survivors in the community created to help them heal from their psychic wounds after their physical wounds are treated.

The injuries inflicted on women victims of sexual violence by roving soldiers often results in vesicovaginal and rectovaginal fistula for many, rendering them incontinent in many cases and resulting in their rejection by the people of their villages and communities. The film introduces viewers to the work of Dr. Denis Mukwegwe at the Panzi Clinic and the women and men who work with him to repair the bodies and minds of women victims. It’s the hopeful and inspiring part of the film. Some of you might remember that Eve Ensler became involved in consciousness-raising and fundraising for the clinic with her V-Day initiative. There is lots of critique of Ensler’s work and “The Vagina Monologues” and some of it is warranted. In the end I admire her for doing a fucking thing: “To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $100 million; educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it; crafted international educational, media, and PSA campaigns; reopened shelters; and funded over 13,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, Egypt, and Iraq.”

Here’s an article that Ensler wrote for Glamour magazine back in 2008 that affected me deeply: “I am going to tell the stories of the patients he saves so that the faceless, generic, raped women of war become Alfonsine and Nadine—women with names and memories and dreams. I am going to ask you to stay with me, to open your hearts, to be as outraged and nauseated as I felt sitting in Panzi Hospital in faraway Bukavu.”

At the tenth anniversary celebration of V-Day in New Orleans in 2008 which honoured the work of Denis Mukwegwe and those who work at the Panzi Clinic and “City of Joy”, the refuge established where women can begin to heal their psychic wounds after they are physically recovered from surgery at the Clinic, Stephen Lewis – who was then Canada’s Ambassador to the UN – gave a speech that I have never forgotten about the UN’s complicity in the violence against women in Congo. It’s impassioned, inspiring … and reveals horrible things that seem almost past resolution. It bears a read or re-read. Lewis’ speech makes me wonder whether the “efforts” of the UN in combatting violence against women isn’t just one giant public relations scam.

UN Resolutions against violence against women specifically in Congo have been hailed widely and then proven useless. In fact, UN “peacekeeping” troops have too often been implicated in incidents of violence themselves – see this and this and this. There’s much more. Just Google.

I think it’s necessary to look at the roots of the conflict in Congo and the complicity of industrialized nations in that conflict due to our ongoing and vampiric requirement for “conflict minerals”. Gold is the biggest source of conflict mineral trade in Congo but next comes coltan, used to produce tantalum which is required for the manufacture of our mobile phones and almost every other electronic device. The presence of minerals mined by greedy ousiders (rich, white, usually Western corporations) has been shown to lead to “the likelihood of weak democratic development, corruption, and civil war”. No one does worse in such countries than women who are oppressed, exploited, maimed and killed by EVERYONE.

There have been attempts to address the rape and pillage caused by the perceived need to produce millions of electronic devices but, again, these often seem to amount to little more than public relations efforts on the part of the tech industry:

“But while major US-registered electronics firms are outwardly pledging to end the use of conflict minerals some of these same firms belong to industry associations that are seeking to water down the disclosure requirements under Dodd-Frank.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers have mounted a legal challenge to the obligations, which is being considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals.” (here)

As I write this post on a computer that likely contains coltan and other conflict minerals, I am not unaware of the irony. We are all complicit. I mean no disrespect to those who find the pictures and stories emanating from Congo traumatizing. We all have to take care of ourselves first and foremost before we can address these pressing issues and we have to take care of ourselves while we’re doing it too. But I don’t think we can or should ban the photos or stories or in any way suppress them. I have to at least witness and at best, find something to do about it. Drops in the ocean. But the women of the City of Joy tell me it’s the least I can do and that women will rise up no matter what men do to us.

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– Open Letter to Amnesty International by survivors of CAFES: “We have believed in your will to make this world a better, fairer world.”

Open Letter to Amnesty International

By the survivors of the Help Collective for Sexually Exploited Women

(Collectif d’Aide aux Femmes Exploitées Sexuellement – CAFES) of QUÉBEC


We have believed in your will to make this world a better, fairer world, a world that respects and promotes the rights of all human beings, not just those of men. You have disappointed many men, as well as a great number of women. We are shocked to realize that you are defending, subtly and hypocritically, the “rights” of pimps and exploiters, accepting thereby the selling and marketing of vulnerable women and children.

Large sums of money received by some sex trade advocates suggest that you are endorsing this trade for the same reason they are, money. Money trumping human rights. Is this really the case? Have you really fallen this low? The policy you have adopted regarding prostitution raises serious doubts about…

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